Does the Height of Teenagers Affect Their Ability to Jump High?

Vertical jumping is an important skill that gives players an advantage in sports such as basketball, volleyball, badminton, tennis and Frisbee. Height is an important factor in how high your teen can jump, but it also depends on body weight, muscle size, strength and agility. Your teen can learn how to leap higher, with strength training that builds body muscles and by practicing jumps.

Teens can improve their jumping range regardless of how tall they are. (Image: Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Height

If your teenager is tall, he has a natural advantage over shorter kids when it comes to how high he can jump. Jump Science explains that this is because his longer legs act as a lever. It is easier to understand the physics of leverage by thinking of how a wrench works. If you have a wrench with a long handle, it will be easier to turn a screw because you have more torque -- force around a point. On the other hand if you use a shorter wrench to turn that same screw, you will find it more difficult because you will need to put in more effort -- in the form of elbow grease -- to get that same amount of force. In the same way, considerably longer legs can help propel a body upward with more force for a higher jump.

Muscles

Your calves, thighs, and other muscles move your legs and feet to help you jump. Taller teens have longer leg bones, but if the leg muscles are weak, they won't get enough force to propel the body upward to jump high. Think of the leg bones as the wrench, and the leg muscles as someone applying force to the wrench. A stronger person will be able to turn the wrench faster than someone who is weaker. In the same way, strong leg muscles allow the body to spring up from a crouched or knees-bent position with enough force for a high vertical jump. For this reason, in addition to height, the circumference of your teen's calves and thighs also affect how he can jump. A study published in the Journal of Dance Medicine and Science in 2006 found that both men and women with larger, more muscular legs were able to jump higher than participants with less lean mass in their lower bodies.

Fitness

The right fitness training and practice is the key to jumping higher, regardless of how tall your teenager is. DualFit advises exercising the leg muscles as much as possible with a variety of exercises. Stretches help keep the muscles limber and flexible, while squats can strengthen the leg muscles. Teenagers can use a barbell -- beginning without any weights for safety -- gently placed across the shoulders. The bar is held in place with both hands, and the knees and toes are lined up and pointed straight ahead before doing the squat exercise. Running also helps to strengthen and build the leg muscles. Just be sure that your teen is running on a track, grass field or treadmill and not on concrete, which can damage joints. Anyone considering a new fitness regimen should consult his or her physician.

Safety

Vertical jumping impacts the whole body and puts the ankle and knee joints under a great deal of strain. It is important for your teen to be physically fit to avoid injuries from sports that involve a lot of jumping. Joints, such as the knees and ankles, need strong muscles to keep them stable and protected. This is why athletes endure a great deal of training with weights and stretching, in addition to practicing the sport. If your teen has very low muscle mass or is seriously overweight, he should get into shape before doing any activity that involves a lot of jumping. Extra weight and weak muscles can damage the joints and bones. Additionally, if your teen has back problems or an injury, it is important to avoid jumping and other exercises that might worsen his condition. Consult your teen's physician to address any athletic safety concerns.

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